Let me start out by saying that this blog is in no way affiliated with Matawan’s new Pride of the Sea Fishery. Nor is this blog affiliated with any of its competitors or has anything against the business or its owner. This blog is independent. While I focus mostly on restaurant reviews and food pictures, lately I have forayed into food news. Perhaps this post does not qualify as “news” but I cannot help but look upon what is happening on local social media with some amusement.
For weeks, I saw posts on Facebook promoting the opening of the new fishery now occupying what used to be Peter’s Fishery. The posts were from the owner (George) who seems kind enough. The information, pictures, and descriptions were written with passion and appear to be from someone who genuinely cares about his business. As someone with 10 years of social media management and consultation experience for businesses, individuals, and organizations, I cannot tell you how great it is to see an owner actively promoting his brand rather than hire an outside agency without firsthand knowledge or choose to ignore social media platforms altogether.
I live in Holmdel and am rarely in Matawan, but even I looked at these pictures with wide-eyed amazement. They were delectable, and posted during the business’s experimental/test phase. Could this fishery really be churning out these amazing-looking dishes? In time, the fishery opened and rave reviews were spotted all over Facebook. Then came the negative reviews. This is to be expected, of course, because in the food/restaurant industry, you will never see 100% of anything, positive or negative.
Today, however, things seemed to reach a fever-pitch as a poster in a Matawan Facebook group accused the owner of stealing images from other websites and pages. After reviewing the evidence (which the individual provided after probably having way too much time on their hands), it does seem that pictures were borrowed. Is this a huge deal? Yes and no. Businesses using stock photos is nothing new, but these images are from other restaurants’ actual pages. It is impossible for it to be known if said images have a copyright, but if so, this is not only tasteless and careless, but illegal. I highly doubt anyone would sue over such use, but the option is there.
The conversation then erupted into a string of questions and insults, opposition and defense. People on both sides were right and wrong. Comments swelled to over 200 in a matter of hours. The owner, quite active on Facebook, joined in as well. He commended those defending him, and attacked those against. Some of his posts regarding the business end of food production (he had a side conversation about the pricing of his dishes and what the actual fish costs were per pound, etc) were insightful and welcome, but as I have seen in many years of my own restaurant reviews and research based on review-hosting websites, blogs, and forums, attacking anyone publicly will bring nothing but trouble and disdain. The initial posters publicly blasting this restaurant perhaps should have shown some reserve, but so should the owner.
What is the point of this article? For me, it is to point out to other aspiring business owners to take your own pictures. If you truly are running a restaurant, it means you are there the entire day and are on-site for practically every meal coming out of the kitchen. This means you have a chance to quite literally snap (and/or stage) a photo of every single meal prepared at your restaurant and keep them on file for use at a later time. This is not a mistake any business should make, whether the owner is experienced or a novice. Also, in this day and age and in an area loaded with dining options, it would perhaps be best to be a bit more tactful. If someone is turned off by what they see online, they are likely to go elsewhere without even giving it a try.
I wish Pride of the Sea in Matawan nothing but the best, and I hope tensions ease on social media. The restaurant needs more time to get things right (including, I hope, taking their own pictures) while customers need to recognize that not everyone is perfect and a small business should have our support until they prove they do not deserve it.